METRO Monday, March 5, 2001

Marat/Sade

***
Warwick Thompson

Until Sat, Arcola Theatre, 27 Arcola Street E8, 8pm, 8, 5 concs, tomorrow pay what you can.Tel: 020 7503 1646. Rail: Dalston Kingsland


Despite some impressive performances from the leads (especially Alexander Arkell as Marat and David Brad-shawe as de Sade), the real star of this brave production is the Arcola Theatre. Recently converted from a clothing factory, it's enormous, highly mutable spaces make it perfect for the atmosphere of institutionalisation and unpredictability necessary for a good Marat/Sade. (They also make it one of the very few fringe venues in London that could hope to stage a play with 26 in the cast.)

With simple but beautiful lighting effects and a decep-tively basic design, this production capitalises on the natural resources of the venue to excellent effect. Marat/Sade is a cerebral piece that explores the possi-bility of social revolution and the absurdity of theatre. It also invites direct and unsettling collusions with the audience, which add to the excitement of the ideas.

Unfortunately, the tone, once set, is not subsequently varied enough and comes to feel like hectoring by the end. And too many of the smaller roles are shouted rather than spoken. However, these feel like the noble failures of a laudably ambitious production and one definitely worth catching.

- 2001 Metro

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